A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress

A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress is designed to help lawyers to manage stress. It will help you to understand how to recognise the signs of stress in yourself and others, so that you can take action and manage it before it becomes excessive.

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"Accessible, well-structured and practical, yet well-grounded in the research literature, A Lawyer’s Guide to Wellbeing and Managing Stress is highly recommended reading for all legal professionals. And not just practicing lawyers, but also those of us engaged in legal education, training, and research where heightened concern around poor law student and legal academic wellbeing can also be detected. As such, it makes a major contribution to what has become an increasingly high-profile debate within the legal profession, helping us better understand – and do something about – issues that increasingly appear to be all too common in the law and yet, so often, are not spoken of"Richard Collier is professor of law at Newcastle Law School

Stress is an inevitable part of being lawyer and it can even be a positive force – it can help you push through long hours or meet tough targets. However, when stress becomes excessive, it can be damaging to individuals and to firms, leading to mental and physical sickness, lack of morale or a desire to take on additional responsibility, and worse.

The problem is widespread. According to a Law Society survey, 95% of lawyers have some negative stress in their jobs, and 17% say that this is extreme.  Lawyers feel overloaded with work, unappreciated, isolated, and unsupported; many complain of unattainable targets, poor pay, and long hours. And while many firms say they have programmes in place that are geared towards improving the wellbeing of staff, 66% of lawyers say they would be concerned about reporting feelings of stress to their employer because of the stigma involved. Nobody wishes to be seen as a weak link in the chain of a professional practice.

A solution won’t be found overnight. This book is designed to encourage lawyers and firms to think more about the question of stress, how to recognise it in others and themselves, and how to take action before it becomes excessive. It is written for lawyers everywhere – regardless of location or career level.

Key topics include:

  • What is stress – how does it affect us?
  • How can you prepare for inevitable stress and be better fitted to cope?
  • How can you recognise the signs of stress in yourself and others?
  • What are the particular characteristics of lawyers that make them more susceptible to negative stress?
  • Mindfulness, mind-mindedness, and emotional intelligence (EI) – what they are and how they can help you to cope with stressful situations.
  • Vicarious trauma – how you can be aware of and manage unavoidable emotional reactions to and/or involvement with clients’ emotions.
  • Looking after ourselves and our teams – what can (and can’t) we do to make things better?

The advice is informed by the author’s practical experience as a lawyer and psychotherapist, and it is underpinned by recent statistical and research evidence, and illustrated by the personal experiences of lawyers whose stories have been anonymised, deconstructed, and re-arranged for confidentiality. The book also includes tips, exercises, and frameworks to think about in order to help you to tackle stress and promote mental wellbeing.


Executive summary

About the author


  • Wellbeing in the legal profession
  • LawCare
  • Who should read this book?
  • How is this book structured?

Part 1: So what?

Chapter 1: Stress and mental illness – A wicked legal problem?

  • The statistics
  • Wicked legal problems
  • Stigma
  • Stress has had a bad press 
  • Can stress be healthy?
  • Adjusting your frame of mind 

Chapter 2: Prehab

  • Prehab contexts
  • Archetypes
  • Rehab for VIPs
  • Reversing the therapy

​​Part 2: Me

Case study 1: Andrew – Internalising problems

Chapter 3: Brains and bodies

  • Low and high roads to fear
  • The brain’s survival mode 
  • The ‘high road’ to clearer thinking 

Chapter 4: Resilience 

  • Resilience theory 
  • Resilience markers 
  • A turning point 

Chapter 5: Practical mentalizing (1) – Mindfulness 

  • Mentalizing 
  • Mindfulness 

Part 3: You

Case study 2: Beth – Inter-personal causes of stress

Chapter 6: Practical mentalizing (2) – Mind-mindedness

  • Thinking feelings and feeling thinkings
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Mindblindness and mind-mindedness
  • Berne’s ‘parent-adult-child’ theory
  • GIVE – Achieving assertiveness

Chapter 7: Team working and working teams 

  • Some basic assumptions
  • Social intelligence

Part 4: Do

Case study 3: Chris – Environmental stress

Chapter 8: Stuff happens

  • Vicarious trauma
  • The effects of change

Chapter 9: Looking after ourselves

  • Five Ways to Wellbeing
  • Emotional literacy
  • Coping
  • Press ‘pause’
  • Sleep 
  • Kanban 

Chapter 10: Working well with others

  • Reading the changes
  • Breaking the ice
  • Dealing with difficult people
  • Press ‘pause’ again
  • Thinking hats
  • Basic assumptions

Epilogue: What now? 


Managing change

What is to be done?

Recommended further reading


Advice and support

Download chapters


Angus Lyon
Angus Lyon has practised as a litigation solicitor for 35 years and, since 1987, as a partner at Mears Hobbs & Durrant. He has specialised as a claimant personal injury lawyer for the last 20 years and has regularly been recommended in this area of work in the Legal 500. He is a professional deputy. Partly as a result of his growing work in psychiatric injuries, Angus developed an interest in psychotherapy and obtained a secondary qualification as a counsellor. He is a registered member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, and is a director and co-founder of Catalyst Counselling CIC, a social enterprise providing counselling and training in East Anglia. He has been a LawCare volunteer since 2008.  

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